Ben A’an: The Top of the Walks

Ben A'an

It was the middle of May, and the residents of Edinburgh were acting rather strangely. I witnessed two men swimming in the sea at (not so) exotic Newhaven on a Saturday morning, I saw “taps aff” on Leith Walk, and people were actually smiling at strangers in the street.

All that and then there’s me, I springing out of bed circa. 8am on a Sunday morning, absolutely buzzing for what would be a tiring day, rather than one of rest.

What the…?!

Aye, you’ve guessed it. The sun was out with his ‘See you Jimmy’ hat on. Such a rare phenomenon has the same effect on us native Scots as the alleged mind-altering properties of a full moon. It’s all a bit mad.

Ben A’an bound.

Avocado, feta and tomato on toast sent me bouncing out of my flat and into my friend’s car complete with a cheesy grin, a colourful outdoorsy ensemble, and new pair of walking boots; I left my previous, barely worn pair on a train on my last adventure. Doh!

Myself and three female friends were off to the Trossachs National Park for the day to grace the summit of the highly popular Ben A’an. It was recommended to me as an ideal training spot for my Ben Nevis charity climb in August thanks to its steep, yet short incline. icons-05

The drive there was a novelty in itself; windows – down, songs from years gone by – up, and a cheeky glimpse of Linlithgow Palace, the Kelpies, Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument along the way. Just 1.5 hours in, we were nearly there.

A Pie and a Pee.

Like an annoying child who should’ve gone before they left, I requested a wee ‘comfort break’ in the tourist town of Callendar. Free toilets = happy days, not so free parking = oh well.

Pie from Mhor Bread in Callander

Haggis and steak pie anyone?

On the way back to the car, despite not actually being hungry, we naturally gravitated towards the baked goods on display in ‘Mhor Bread’, to indulge in an essential small-town pie. Excellent choice of pre-exercise food… if you’re a fan of indigestion. Belly full and bladder empty, we continued on until we were winding alongside the picturesque Loch Venachar.

It’s up Ben A’an we go. 

Ben A’an Diversion’. The normal car park for the walk was closed due for path maintenance, so we were directed to the Ben Venue car park further down the road. The diversion continued on foot, through some varied woodland terrain with alternating gradients.

Small sections snaked through the forest, acting as a much needed cool oasis in the soaring Scottish temperatures of approx. 18 degrees celsius. 

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The knuckle of a summit up ahead gave off a hint of insurmountability, and looked much further away than it was. I suspect this was excasebated by the heat and the haggis pie-shaped weight in my stomach.

In reality, the walk isn’t particularly challenging; it’s steep in parts with some tricky terrain, but isn’t long in terms of distance or time.

Feeling on Top.

Let me tell you, the top is an absolute treat. I’ve tried to imagine a rival view that I’ve recently discovered elsewhere but nope, I can’t think of one. Ben A’an my dear, you have stolen the show.

Loch Katrine and the surrounding hills are unbelievably beautiful, plus the relatively flat paths and big rocks at the top give you every excuse to stick around, have a chill, take a scenic selfie, and soak up the surroundings for a wee while longer.

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I perched on one of said rocks like Mufasa in the Lion King (see my cartoon banner for proof!) and guzzled eager mouthfuls of water from my ‘cool’ new walking accessory, sent to me by the lovely folks at Tiso.

My Hydro Flask.

They obviously sensed that on my first training walk in the Pentlands I was the dumbo who forgot to bring water, or that I throw a mini-tantrum when plastic bottles of water are inevitably warm by such times as my thirst needs quenching.

They knew that I needed a Hydro Flask in my life. My hydration and stable body temperature on Ben A’an depended upon it.

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The flask carries just under a litre and has a handy handle which is perfect for swinging cheerfully as you walk, or just for carrying it like a normal person. It can keep liquids hot for 6 hours or cold for 24. Impressive!

I can personally vouch for the refreshingly cold water, which actually gave the illusion of being colder than it was when I filled it that morning. My other half has since used it when climbing Ben Nevis and said it was a saviour. It will be coming on all future walking adventures.

Post-Ben A’an scran.

Exactly 2 hours after we started, we were back in the car park and had one thing on our minds. FOOD. We decided not to retreat to Callander and instead went with my friend’s glowing recommendation of the Byre Inn. We entered via a leafy little road to be met with an inviting abode of the utmost cuteness, with picnic tables outside.

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We weren’t lucky enough to grab a seat in the sunshine, but this wasn’t too much of a concern when we clocked the quirky, comfortable interior. The menu instigated quite the discussion; there were a lot of tempting dishes to choose from, and the threat of ‘food envy’ was imminent.

The girls chose the mackeral pate starter, while I opted for bread with dips and olives. My starter was tip top, and my friend kindly donated me a dollop of the delicious pate to try, so it was a win-win for me.

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I chose the indulgent pork belly with ham hock crouquettes for my main, and was gobsmacked at the generous portion size. I still managed it all though, obvs. The food was plentiful and of a high standard, the service was friendly, and the setting was gorgeous. A big foodie thumbs up from me.

Rather than retrace our route through Callander, we took an alternative route back along the scenic Dukes Pass, and into Aberfoyle for dessert. It had to be the Scottish tablet ice-cream for me. I could just imagine the gasp and disappointed expression on my dentist’s face.

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Come Doune here. 

The last of our pretty pitstops concluded with a “oh go on then” visit to Doune Castle. Doune itself is small and unassuming, yet was once famous for its renowned craft in pistol making.

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Nowadays the castle is familiar to many, having featured in a number of film and TV cult classics; Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones, and Outlander. We circulated the grounds on foot, before continuing our road trip in the direction of home.

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The tunes were still playing, but our sing-a-long efforts were far more subdued. We’d packed a lot of steps, and calories, into our 9 hour Trossachs adventure. A very successful Sunday I’d say.

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Essential Info:

  • You can drive to Ben Aa’n within 2 hours from Edinburgh and 1.5 hours from Glasgow
  • Parking costs £2 – have your coins ready
  • There is no public transport to the starting point – Callander is the closest town served by bus
  • We completed the walk – up and down – within 2 hours, which included plenty time at the top
  • You will need walking boots and water as a minimum, and I would always pack a waterproof jacket
  • I would say this trail is suitable for anyone who is a confident on their feet and can manage an incline – we saw lots of children enjoying the walk!
  • For more information check out the Walk Highlands website.

Tiso kindly sent me my Hydro Flask in exchange for a review. As always, all of my opinions are my own – the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

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